Born in England in 1835 Fred Harvey emigrated to the USA when he was 15 and worked in restaurants in New York. Eventually he moved west and worked for the railroads for 20 years before going into partnership with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and establishing the famous Harvey Houses.
Of the 15 Harvey Houses in New Mexico shown on the map below only 5 are still standing, one of which is in Belen.
The Belen Harvey House in 1910, this view is taken from across the railroad tracks.
A slightly different view, taken from the car park, the tracks are now fenced off.
Built at a cost of $25,000.00 in 1910 the Belen Harvey House was reputed to be one of the most elegant in the South West. The ground floor had a newsstand, lunchroom with a marble counter, cashiers office and a first class dining room.
Inside the Belen Harvey House.
Each Harvey House was staffed by single young girls who were usually sent to Vaughn, New Mexico for training. Here they learned how to serve customers and keep their black and white uniforms spotless. Daily inspections were held to ensure that the girls weren’t wearing too much makeup and that they were wearing their hair nets and girdles. I can’t imagine that happening anywhere these days.
Once trained Harvey Girls were sent to Harvey Houses throughout the railroad system where they usually lived in rooms above the Harvey House they worked in.
A replica of what a Harvey Girls room might’ve looked like.
They were closely chaperoned and famous for their service and high standards.
Harvey Girls often worked split shifts and made fresh Maxwell House coffee with just a pinch of salt, (never thought of adding salt to coffee) full carafes of water were placed on each table along with silver service and linen table cloths.
This poster shows the locations of some Harvey Houses along with a menu showing dinner suggestions, I quite like the thought of a gourmet martini costing 75c!
Passengers had 30 minutes before they needed to re-board the train, Harvey Girls were told never to rush the passengers. At 15 minutes passengers were told they had plenty of time, at 25 they were told it was almost time to re-board the train and at 30 minutes the train left on time. In order to achieve this there were no public rest rooms in the Harvey Houses passengers were encouraged to make use of the rest rooms on the train either before or after eating. Nothing interfered with the train time tables.
Belen Harvey House was ‘the place to go’ until it closed in 1939, reopening during WWII to serve troup trains before becoming a reading room and rooming house for railroad employees.
In 1983 the building was taken over by Valencia County Historical Society who began to run it as a museum.
Have fun, we are!